A man with Down’s syndrome and another man accompanied by a guide dog visit a volcanic landscape. Image by MultiSignes.
Around twenty tourist guides and agents from the counties of Girona took part in the Conference on Accessibility and Universal Tourism held at the Casa de Cultura in Girona. Four sessions were devoted to providing professionals with tools for designing guided tours for everyone, regardless of their condition.
The first day was devoted to the needs of people with reduced mobility; the second to the needs of people with deafness and deafblindness; the third to the needs of people with blindness, and the fourth to the needs of people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. The speakers at each session were people who experience disability first-hand. And, although each group has its own demands, some of them are general.
What needs to be considered?
Firstly, the accessibility of the route must be taken into account. Although this may seem very obvious, it is not always considered. Everyone wants to have first-hand experiences and a friendly environment is necessary to make this possible. Knowing the profile of the audience will help us to plan the experience correctly and to take into account the needs of the visitor. In the pre-registration forms, as well as in previous conversations in case the booking is made by phone, you can include the section: “Do you have any specific needs?”
Secondly, materials need to be adapted to take into account different disabilities. The use of 3D models, for example, is useful for visually impaired people, but it is also useful for everyone. If we are talking about a building, we all like to perceive volumes and new perspectives.
Thirdly, use language that is inclusive and appropriate to the audience you are addressing. If we are addressing people with intellectual disabilities, it is important to use short, concise and simple sentences. In the case of visually impaired people, instead of saying: “If you look this way, you will see…”, we can say: “On your right, there is…”. All audiences will benefit from the use of clear and easy-to-understand language.
Fourthly, all the groups emphasise the interest in sensory stimuli. Touching, smelling, feeling or tasting, beyond seeing, enriches experiences and fixes them in the memory.
Finally, it is important not to infantilise or overprotect people with disabilities. And keep in mind that some disabilities are invisible. Almost a third of people with disabilities have an invisible disability, i.e. one that is not identifiable at first sight. Avoiding them having to justify their condition and treating everyone normally is the first step towards designing activities for all.